Whether you are an architectural buff or you simply want to impress your friends when visiting an ancient monument, telling the difference between a Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian Column is pretty easy to do. The three classical orders were a Greek invention, but historical monuments and classical buildings irrespective of location, house these columns. When in Greece, or elsewhere, learn to tell the difference between these columns following these easy pointers.
Starting at the very beginning, a column is simply a pillar or a post that supports a structure. Columns can also be decorative elements without having any load bearing properties. Classical architecture classifies columns into three basic orders namely Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian. The word order refers to a complete style that is reflected throughout the building, but is most obvious in the columns of the building. The easiest way to tell these columns apart is to look at the very top of the column also called its capital, and to look at the body of the column to assess its width.
Plain Doric Columns
The most understated of columns, Doric columns were used to symbolize simplicity and purity. If the column is as plain as can be, looks a little bulky to the eye, has flutes on its body, and lacks a base, it is most likely a Doric column. Doric columns were the earliest columns, and are likely to have parts missing from them, in ancient monuments. The Parthenon is said to be one of the most refined examples of the Doric order.
Slender Ionic Columns
Used to symbolize sophistication and refinement, Ionic columns were most often used in buildings that housed museums. If the column has a slender appearance, has spirals or scrolls decorating its capital, and a simple base, it is an Ionic column. Other than the spirals decorating the capital, Ionic columns are pretty plain too.
Decorative Corinthian Columns
Corinthian columns are the most opulent of the three columns of the classical order, and were used to symbolize, money and prestige. It is pretty easy to spot a fancy Corinthian column. If the column has a multi tiered base, and a highly decorative capital adorned with acanthus leaf motifs, it is a Corinthian column. Even though the Corinthian style was a greek invention, it became more popular in Rome for its showy design.
In classical architecture, a structure with multiple storeys used multiple orders of columns. Doric columns occupied the first storey, followed by the Ionic in the second storey, and the Corinthian in the third storey. The famous Coliseum in Rome is an example of this arrangement.